How to Ditch Shampoo (and look even better)

Last month I ditched shampoo. Yes, this is true. Perhaps all the talk about plastic bottles, carcinogenic chemicals in beauty products, the fact most detergents are not biodegradable got to me. The cost of ‘good shampoos’ is astronomical in some instances.. and are they really better for my hair?

After cutting my hair back in March, I’ve decided to grow my hair long again, but the problems always arise with the question of how often I should wash my hair. I have friends that could go a week with one or two washes, but my hair is so fine, that it’s difficult stretch the time between washes, leaving the problems of dry hair, the battle of the frizz, brittle hair, etc. Long hair is a lot of work. The real reason I look to alternatives, mostly is because I want healthier hair.

Cuts Thru Grease

Shampoos are detergents for hair. Just like dish washing detergent, laundry detergent, they strip the hair of it’s natural moisturizers by cutting through the grease, that’s why we need conditioner to replace the oils. Then the glands go into overdrive to replace the stripped oil, producing greasy hair, which then needs more shampoo, conditioner, etc.

It’s a vicious cycle.

I’m saying this from personal experience. When I wash my hair with shampoo, it looks good the day it’s washed, and if I go one day without washing, it’s greasy. Since I’ve started using baking soda/apple cider vinegar/honey in my hair I’ve been able to stretch washes two to four days without getting ‘greasy hair’.

How to go shampoo free:

People have been using sodium bicarbonate(baking soda) like soap since ancient Egyptian times. Baking soda has tons of uses, it’s essential in cupcakes, it’s a deodorizer, you can brush your teeth with it, add in your bath to soften skin, helps relieve rashes, burns, insect bites… and you can wash your hair with it. In the States, you can buy a 4lb box of baking soda for about $4. Here, in Germany, I’ve only managed to find small packets… I’ve heard they sell it in larger quantities, but not at the average supermarket.

Baking soda will remove the grime without stripping your hair of it’s natural oils. Use one tablespoon per wash. You can dissolve the baking soda in half a cup of water or add a small amount of water to make a paste. I generally use the watery kind because it goes through my hair easier. Massage the solution in your scalp and leave for a minute.

The second part is using Apple Cider Vinegar to soften the hair… after rinsing out the baking soda use a solution of two tablespoons of ACV to half a cup of water. Don’t worry about the smell, it goes away in a few moments. It makes your hair soft, but if used too often, you may experience greasiness.

Mostly I hear to experiment with different solutions until you get what works best. So far I haven’t had any disasters, but I’m still trying to figure out the perfect mix. Since I’ve been using baking soda, I haven’t had itchy scalp, my hair is more manageable, and I don’t think shampoo does a particularly better job.

I would not recommend you try this if you have colored hair. I have not found any information to confirm the baking soda is color-safe, and if this seems too ‘hippy’ of a solution for you there are several dry shampoos or ‘no poo’s out in the market.

Dry Shampoo:

Oscar Blandi Dry Shampoo: $19 Got great reviews on Makeup Alley and Amazon, particularly popular amongst blondes who have issues with dry hair, and color protection.

No Poo:

Deva Curl No Poo : $17 This keeps getting mentioned in the New York Times, made from the hip salon for curly hair Devachan, it’s special for curly hair, but they also have specific nopoo’s for color treated hair.


There’s a lot of information out there, but here are some favorites:

Info: Shampoo Free

Of course I washed my hair…

Life Less Plastic

The No Poo Method (video)

jennineHow to Ditch Shampoo (and look even better)

Comments 42

  1. Ashe Mischief

    Great post! Though I admit I was all excited & worked up to try this, until I got to the “not necessarily recommended for colored hair” bits.

    Tricia (of bits & bobbins) once recommended Bumble & Bumble’s dry shampoo; her hair is similar to mine (fine & oily) and she swears by it! So another alternative for your readers to look in to… I personally can’t wait to try it.

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    ohh yeah… sorry about that. i would have recommended the bumble and bumble stuff, but i paid $35 for a can for brunettes, and all it did was turn my bathroom brown, and not to mention my forehead. i’m still pissed about that.

  3. WendyB

    I tried this and all it did was make my truly oil hair truly disgusting! There’s oily and then there’s oily, I guess. It’s worth a try for some people though.

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  5. yelda

    sounds ok with the baking soda,
    i just thought.. maybe you get bigger packages in grosshandelsmärkten for bakeries? would ask your daily bakery. think they would help you finding out.

  6. Ashe Mischief

    Yikes! That’s horrible about it turning your forehead brown. I will admit, the colored hair aspect was the biggest turn off, because my hair is between red & brown. Maybe I’ll find one that is color free….

  7. Shay

    I love the pic of you at the top of this post Jeninne!! I have a bottle of Stila dry shampoo which was pricey, but I love the smell and you use so little of it that it lasts forever. There are lots of “recipes” online for making dry shampoo, and I hear the main ingredient in the Stila stuff is plain old corn starch.

  8. Alexis

    There’s also lush shampoo bars which don’t use bottles (its like a bar of soap) and use only natural ingredients. I haven’t tried them but I like the concept of zero waste.

  9. Becca

    Great post! Baking Soda is amazingly versatile. I myself prefer the naturally made Lush bar shampoos, they smell divine and are sustainable as well.

  10. Leah

    Wow my, this is really interesting! I have to wash my hair virtually everyday - I was thinking of trying some lush hair stuff out because I use lush for my face and it works beautifully. But, this is definitely worth a shot - especially as baking soda is a readily available product!

  11. Szaza

    I gave up on shampoo and face cleanser about a month ago.

    I have super-sensitive skin that suddenly started breaking out, so I went to a dermatologist who had me use all these medicated gels that left my face raw. So I stopped everything and went back to my roots. My Lebanese side of the family has a remedy for everything, and everyone swears by sabon baladi, an all-natural olive oil soap. I started using it for everything— hair, face, body. My fine limp hair now has bounce and my face is looking and feeling fabulous. Both feel really moisturised. I’m sure any olive oil soap will do, there are some wonderful ones from Provence out there.

  12. Sandra

    I’ve noticed that I can wash my hair less frequently now that it is short. When it was long, I had to wash it every other day! Now I can go 3 days without a wash.

  13. Poochie

    I’ve used the lush bars and they worked well but the bar getting worn down sitting in the shower was my issue it. And I still need conditioner.

    I have long long hair and lately have been having major discontent with my shampoo and conditioner. I’m still searching for good options. I’ve tried various natural & sulfate free products. I’ve gone back to what I used to use. Nothing seems right any more.

    So I’m just using up the bottles I have in the meantime. But I have discovered dry shampoo and LOVE it for in between washes.


    Klorane Dry Oat Shampoo is the only one that seems to be consistently well rated. I’m just about to buy 3 more bottles.


  14. Toni

    I love how soft apple cider vinegar makes my hair feel, but I can’t use it often. I actually use all natural shampoo bars (like a bar of soap, but more gentle, I think). I highly recommend visiting the message board:
    I think it must be one of the biggest internet resources for hair care tips and techniques for people who want to grow long healthy hair.

  15. oaktree

    I got so excited at this but then read about the coloured hair bit. I have the exact same hair and it does get a little annoying at times. I do use batiste dry shampoo which is £2 and it is one of the best on the market in my opinion, doing better than some more expensive versions.

  16. adahpotato

    Based on a True Story

    The Scene: home office (husband walks in)

    Husband: smell my hair.
    Me: (sniffing) why?
    Husband: i just read The Coveted’s new post and i washed my hair with baking soda paste.
    Me: well it smells just fine (give husband a pat on the head)

    You already have one convert. Love the post. I’ll have to try this one out.

  17. sara

    i use devacurl and, though it took a bit getting used to a lack of bubbles and lather, it has changed the way i feel about my curls.

  18. oluchi

    my dear you are so late. haha. but no fear, better late than never. someone mentioned a shampoo bar. There’s a great one at:
    There’s also an Indian based one called Shikakkai.

    Also, have you heard of co-wash? It a method of washing with conditioner rather than shampoo. You lather up like with a shampoo and massage it into your scalp, then rinse out. For an extra tingle, add a few drops of tea tree oil. It stimulates blood flow in the hair glands and leads to growth. I use this method on my extremely dry, relaxed African hair. It allows me to retain my natural oils while washing my hair clean.

    If you feel that after a couple of days your scalp doesn’t feel clean, then wash with a chelating or clarifying shampoo (you can also add tingle) and continue on with styling.

    Good luck!

  19. meli

    yea good post!!
    If only the rest of the world knew that 100 years ago people didn’t really obssess on washing their hair everyday.
    I have been washing mine once every week-10 days, except when I bike a bit too much my head smells like a sweaty helmet…JK I think I’m lucky my hair is able to flex like that and not act up or get too oily at all.
    I swear by all kinds of products (specially peppermint bar soap) from Dr. Bronner’s
    , Shikai (from Santa Rosa, CA) or Avalon Organics (and lotions! also a Bay Area brand) I never take for granted my location and its accesibility to all local yummies. I have even seen them at(as of recently) a number of walgreens. Pricey maybe, but since not bought often, I prefer Qual./Qnty.
    At home we use olive oil and vinegar for EVERYTHING, I mean nothing goes to waste right? in elementary school, when we ran out of aqua net (yes c’mon we were 80s brats) we immediately slab some lime juice on our heads, stiff as a board, but holds like crazy, and smells great. ah hair issues…

  20. pretty face

    That’s really interesting. Unfortunately there’s someone I know who agrees with you that shampoo is bad, but hasn’t yet realised that you need to replace it with something (ie baking soda…)

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    oh my goodness, thank you all for your really inspiring comments… to be honest I haven’t been in a Lush shop since 2001, but I’m definitely going to check it out now.

    @szaza… i’ve also stopped using facial cleansers, and started using olive oil, and other natural cleansers, i haven’t broken out in months.

    @meli… awww shikai and dr.bronner, spoken like a true californian. :)

    @toni… thanks for the link to the longhair site, i thought i was the only one with issues with long hair.

    @adahpotato… what a cute story!

    yeah, i’m not sure about the color thing… if you are willing to chance it, let me know how it works , i just haven’t heard anything yet, and i know how expensive color treatments can be.

  22. oaktree

    i might try it, i don’t colour my hair at a salon anymore and do it myself, so it won’t be an expensive muss up.

  23. ambika

    I’ve never shampooed my hair much-it’s so dry and the shampoo just exacerbates it. Quite honeslty, i only shampoo when I’ve worked out a lot & can feel the sweat on my scalp. Otherwise, I’m a conditioner only kind of girl.

  24. violetville

    it seems worth mentioning that it is helpful to slowly stretch out the time between shampoos (i’m talking normal regular shampoos) to avoid excess oiliness.

    if you’re used to shampooing every day, even waiting every other day will make your hair feel greasy at first. but if you just hang in there, you can start stretching out the time between shampoos little by little without noticing any excessive oil.

    so for those who are afraid to try the baking soda because of having artificially colored hair (can someone just try it and let us know how it goes?), just give the shampooing-less-frequently a go.

  25. Fajr

    I’m so glad you posted this. I’ve been shampoo free for at least 6 months now and my hair is thanking me for it! No poo or conditioner-only washes are great for moisturizing hair. You know all the tricks, uh?!

  26. Szaza

    @ Jennine: Yes, olive oil! The gel (Tazorac) that the dermatologist gave me made my skin raw and it even bled! Once I decided to ignore his advice and ditch the gel, I used extra virgin olive oil on my face to help it heal. Within a week and a half, the rawness and bumps were gone, and now, a month later, my skin looks incredible. No breakouts!

  27. violetville

    Jennine didn’t you do a post awhile back on using oil to clean your face? Can you post a link to that?

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  29. SwanDiamondRose

    i hope you haven’t mentioned this before but i’ve been looking into henna. lush has henna bars called kaka. in 4 shades. the forums make them sound great. i am working up to braving it. i want to be a brunette or i’d love to try black hair one day.

    oh and all i use one to moisturize my face is this $7 homeopathic natural camomile moisturizer made by a toronto company that is 125 years old or something. it has camomile in it. i will have to find the name.

  30. deryik

    natural olive oil soaps are great. for oily skin, the ones with additional tea tree oil, daphne, camomile or thyme in them work perfectly fine. for dry skin, like u mentioned earlier, apricot/kernel oil works really fine.

    no animal has problems like “dry mane”, “oily feather” or something. we r funny creatures.

  31. UnFit

    You can get large, cheap bags of pure bicarb (without the stretchingstuff that’s in supermarket baking soda) at bakery wholesales in Germany. Some of them also sell to individual customers, just google a few near you and call them up. :)

    The worst part of conventional conditioners is silicone by teh way, often labeles as dimethicone, or anyhting ending in “-cone”, really.
    It’ hell for the water and gives your hai that heavy, sticky feling.
    I use pure coconut oil like a conditioner on my very dry hair, and it’s perfect.

  32. Pingback: Raising the Bar: 6 Eco-Friendly Shampoo Bars | THE COVETED

  33. Mom of 3

    I went and looked to see if baking soda was ok for color treated hair. This website http://www.thebeautybrains.com/vanilla/comments.php?DiscussionID=7 said this
    Based on our research on colored hair in the laboratory, baking soda will strip the color only as much as a standard shampoo. When the baking soda is in the shampoo, you won’t notice much difference. However, most shampoos strip hair color.
    I’m to where I am going to need to color again so I’m going to try this. Thanks

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  35. Pingback: Going without… shampoo that is. | Runaway October

  36. Sam

    Anyone who has ditched shampoo and has a yahoo answers profile, please answer my question? No one has yet.. It’s about whether or not I should ditch shampoo.
    Here is the link. (I know, I have a lot of questions).

  37. Pingback: I'd like some Shampoo without 30 chemicals in it - Health and Wellness - Doctors, illness, diseases, nutrition, sleep, stress, diet, hospitals, medicine, cancer, heart disease - City-Data Forum

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